The original Isuzu Trooper debuted during the early 1980s. Thanks to the public's nascent demand for SUVs, the Trooper was fairly successful although it was plain and very utilitarian. Its boxy, two-door body has an obvious Land Rover appeal, but early versions were available only with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine and were quite underpowered.
Soon, a four-door model joined the lineup, and a GM-sourced V6 engine became available. As the sport-utility market grew, luxury amenities were added to the Trooper, but by the early 1990s, it was apparent that Isuzu needed to redesign the Trooper so it could remain viable in a market populated by steadily improving competitors.
It's this new "box with round edges" Trooper most people remember. Still truck-based, this wider, longer and taller Trooper added features such as a more powerful V6 and antilock brakes. That design lasted 10 years, and for some of those years Acura sold a rebadged version called the SLX. By the start of the new millennium, however, the Isuzu Trooper had been eclipsed by newer and superior competition and was still suffering from the effects of a negative report published in Consumer Reports magazine. With sales stalled, Isuzu discontinued the model for 2002.
As a used midsize SUV, the second-generation Isuzu Trooper is nicely equipped (in Limited trim) and, thanks to aggressive depreciation, priced affordably. Good off-road ability, excellent outward visibility and a spacious interior are among the Trooper's other positive attributes. Poor on-road handling and mediocre fuel economy are the Trooper's main drawbacks. The best years for the Trooper are the mid-to-late '90s. After that, models like the Ford Explorer or Toyota 4Runner or Sequoia are better choices.
Most Recent Isuzu Trooper
The second-generation Isuzu Trooper was produced from 1992-2002. Isuzu made some important updates for 1998, and it's probably these later Troopers that most used-SUV shoppers will be looking at.
In that year, this five-passenger midsize SUV gained a new, more powerful 3.5-liter 215-horsepower V6 and full-time four-wheel drive became standard. The Trooper also got a slight styling update that made it look more upscale than similar-era SUVs. The Trooper was available in two trim levels, base S and upscale Luxury, with the latter changing its name to Limited the following year. By 2000, an LS midlevel trim was added and once again a rear-wheel-drive version was offered. Only minor feature updates were made for the Trooper's last couple of years.
Our last full test of an Isuzu Trooper was in 1999 and we praised the vehicle's improvements, noting that the new engine added needed power and the interior was surprisingly quiet. We also praised the Trooper's roomy interior and cavernous cargo bay. Still, there's no disguising the fact that the Trooper is a truck. It looks like a truck and it rides like a truck. Anyone expecting a smooth ride and sharp handling will be disappointed.
For earlier years of this generation Trooper, there are a few things to watch out for. These Troopers were not as powerful. Base Trooper S models had a single-overhead-cam V6 that made an adequate 175 hp, while upscale-looking LS models had a dual-overhead-cam V6 that was good for 190 hp. Both engines displace 3.2 liters. In addition to its extra horsepower, the LS also offered ABS as an option, so used shoppers should consider that trim level.
Changes over the years were few, but one of the more noteworthy included the addition of a short-wheelbase two-door Trooper with the RS trim level designation in 1993. A few years later it was dropped. If you live in a cold climate, consider a 1994 or newer Isuzu Trooper, as those models offered the option of heated and powered front seats.
The real bargain is the Trooper Limited version added for the 1995 model year. It included such features as a power sunroof, leather upholstery, heated seats and wood grain trim. Prices for a Limited are only a few hundred dollars more than a lesser equipped Trooper, and all '95 models offered a slightly more compliant ride thanks to a revised suspension. The Trooper lineup for 1996 was minus the two-door RS. Shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive also made its debut that year. By 1997, ABS became standard and the Limited trim was renamed the Luxury model.
Past Isuzu Trooper
The first-generation Trooper ran from 1981-'91. A diesel version was offered as well, and later versions of first-generation Troopers were available with a V6. Early Troopers were available as two- and four-door versions but it was the roomy four-door that became popular with American drivers.